The past week or so has seen me obsessively read and listen to various film critics’ Films of 2010. One of the films that is appearing on almost everyone’s list is Inception. However, my belief is that it is not the best film of 2010, not by a long way.
Perhaps it goes without saying, but Spoilers for Inception ahead:
To start out, it’s important to say Inception is a film flawless in its execution of its world. The way it introduces us to the rules and intricacies of its universe was incredibly clever, and forced the audience to really pay attention to everything going on around them.
However, the film has nothing interesting to say.
It’s been six months since its release and having considered everything that happens in the film, this is the conclusion I’ve come to.
Inception has nothing interesting to say about dreams. A film like Science of Sleep was a much better reflection on dreams, the way we dream, and how they influence the way we see reality. Inception’s dreams merely change gravity or landscapes. As such, the film is a pale reflection on the way we dream or what we dream about.
It has nothing interesting to say about our relationship with dreams. The film’s central character, Cobb, was at one point lost in a dreamworld with his wife. He escapes and goes back to reality, but his wife still believes she is dreaming. What the film seems to say is that believing in dreams too hard is bad, we need to live in reality. Really?
The film has nothing interesting to say about ‘inception’. The idea of changing someone’s mind without them realising it is interesting. However, what the central characters actually do to Cillian Murphy is not. Changing his mind regarding something very specific and morally inconsequential (breaking up his family business).
Inception has nothing interesting to say about reality. What annoyed me most about the movie, and is ultimately my main issue with it, is the ending. The decision to make the reality we saw a possible dreamworld was stupid, pointless and only there to make the audience gasp before the credits rolled.
The problem is that everything in the film that happens is so far-fetched and dreamlike (whether in reality or dreamworlds) that trying to figure out whether the whole film is a dream or not is an entirely pointless endeavour.
Now, some of you will point out I’m being a little harsh. And I would fully take that criticism aboard. However, what Inception represents is a recent shift in American cinema towards these films with very intricate, clever plots but with little to no message under-riding them.
It started with films like The Usual Suspects and The Sixth Sense in the nineties, and has continued with films like The Departed and Inception since then.
These films undoubtedly impress audiences with their ability to weave intricate, complex plots. However, the experience of watching them is rather like solving a Rubik’s Cube or Sudoku puzzle. You feel smart and awesome for having figured everything out, but learn little about life or what it means to be human.
What does the film actually say about relationships, the human psyche, or philosophy? It’s important we don’t mistake the creation of an intricate puzzle for actually saying something interesting. That is what I fear many critics and audience members have done with Inception.